Women's Health Articles

Still have symptoms, but your blood tests are coming back “normal” – what can you do?

Women who begin to work with me have often seen multiple doctors, who have had blood tests but advised that their results are normal. This can be frustrating as often they are still experiencing symptoms but they can not navigate on their own to identify the root cause.

Unfortunately the structure of our current medical system doesn’t always allow for a deep dive into people’s health history. GP’s specifically have a limited time for a consult, and they have to justify every test they order under Medicare’s guidelines.

When I work with patients, our consultations can go from 60 – 90 minutes and that involves an extensive investigation into their diet, lifestyle, test results completed, along with other factors which can influence their health such as what they do for work, their environment, family history, medications and supplements they take. With all this information I begin to build a picture and understand what is going on for them.

The majority of pathology labourites compare an individuals result to a reference range (eg. 9 – 35), which can be calculated by taking an average of results for the people they tested, which can include people who are not healthy. This range will result in 95% of the population having clinically “normal” results within the reference range. If you speak to your friends and family it is highly unlikely that 95% of them would feel well and healthy. It’s much more common for people to talk about their health issues than it is to hear someone say they are feeling amazing.

While you might receive a ‘normal’ result, your results may lie either end of the reference range, which means your health is not optimal and potentially you could be heading towards disease. For example your result may be 10 and if the reference range is 9-35, so often it’s within the reference range, however it is skewed to one end. Thyroid testing is a classic example where results can often be skewed to one end of the range, but you will be advised you have ‘normal’ results, and also the thyroid is often tested incorrectly as it’s not a test covered by Medicare.

When I assess your pathology, I use a stricter reference range, which ensures you do not have any symptoms of any conditions before you would receive a diagnosis. I also summarise all the tests you have had done, as I’m trying to identify if there are any patterns between tests. Our bodies priority is to maintain homoeostasis which basically means balance, so sometimes one our body systems will need to work harder to compensate for another system that needs support. If we are looking at tests in isolation we can miss that. For example, if your cholesterol has started to elevate over time, that can be a sign that your thyroid is not functioning at an optimal level. If we only look at cholesterol in isolation we can miss that important information.

Also by looking at your history of testing over the years, we can identify if there has been significant changes in results. Sometimes people zig zag between results but they are still falling within the ‘normal’ range. It’s important information to keep checking in with, as you wouldn’t want to wait until you fall outside the ‘normal’ range to start to look into why that is progressively changing. While I’m supporting my patients to get back to their best health, my other focus is preventive health care, which can decrease your risk of future disease.

In some cases you may need to go beyond general testing as they do not provide a detailed insight into how your body is functioning. If your blood work is coming back ‘normal’, because you don’t have any disease, functional pathology tests can be used to investigate your metabolic, digestive and hormonal status. The results require training to interpret but can further assist in providing a tool for early intervention, management and monitoring of ongoing treatment (particularly when your blood work is showing ‘normal’ but you still have symptoms).

When you come to see me for a nutrition consultation, I request copies of any testing you have had done. I then review these in the context of all the other information you have provided me around your symptoms, lifestyle, work, diet etc. 

The goal is to identify the root cause for your symptoms and put a treatment plan in place to support you back to health and feeling your best!

Want to feel supported with your health? Book a consult today and let’s have a chat on how to get back to feeling your best.